I Hate Skyler White, and I’m Not a Misogynist

There are only three episodes left of Breaking Bad, and I have something to say. I hate Skyler White. Hate. I am well aware that many people share this opinion; in fact, the actress that portrays Skyler, Anna Gunn, is also aware of the issue. She was so frustrated that she penned a nice little essay titled, “I Have a Character Issue,” in which she demeans anyone with the audacity to dislike her character. Behold Gunn’s opening paragraph:
My character, to judge from the popularity of Web sites and Facebook pages devoted to hating her, has become a flash point for many people’s feelings about strong, non-submissive, ill-treated women. As the hatred of Skyler blurred into loathing for me as a person, I saw glimpses of an anger that, at first, simply bewildered me.
The essay goes on to equate any dislike of Skyler White with an innate misogyny clearly at the core of all Breaking Bad fans. Gunn basically claims that because I hate Skyler, I must, in turn, hate all “strong, non-submissive, ill-treated women.” Pump the brakes, kid. As it turns out, my loathing for Mrs. White is firmly rooted in her despicable actions throughout the course of Breaking Bad’s five season run.
There are many things wrong with Gunn’s sentiment, but let’s start with the fact is that Skyler is not an innocent bystander. Even prior to her entwinement in Walt’s laundering scheme, she was not without fault. Remember that time Skyler helped Ted Beneke cook the books to keep him out of IRS trouble? She even crashes Ted’s meeting with the IRS, chalking up any misdeeds to her own unfamiliarity with bookkeeping. She takes the blame to keep him out of prison.
Skyler’s participation in Ted’s illegal meanderings suggests that if she doesn’t condone his behavior, she can at least turn a blind eye to it. However, when she learns the truth about Walt, she absolutely refuses to hear him out. She doesn’t care that he was (at least initially) looking out for his family; she doesn’t care that his life is at risk. After all, she is a “strong, non-submissive” woman. To Anna Gunn, this means that it is perfectly acceptable to cook the books, but cooking meth is another story.
Skyler’s morality further comes into question when she starts sleeping with Ted. Because her marriage is on the rocks, Skyler seems to feel justified in her infidelity. Cheating is one thing, but the most disturbing element of this whole affair is that Skyler brings her infant daughter with her on these trysts. She simply sets down the carrier and goes about ravishing Ted. Gunn claims that “at the end of the day, she [Skyler] hasn’t been judged by the same set of standards at Walt.” The above example is only one instance of how wrong Gunn is. Both of the Whites put their children at risk. Walt puts his children in danger, but it is indirectly; Skyler’s negligence, however, is of a different sort. She is preoccupied with her affair when she should be concerned about her children. She has just given birth, but sex is more important than Holly. This selfishness is later conveyed in Walter’s insatiable quest for more money. He has squirreled away more cash that his family could ever need, but it is still not enough. It is clear that Walter and Skyler both fall short in the parental standards department, but Walt’s fall from grace is a more gradual one.
Gunn also believes that audiences dislike Skyler because she is essentially the bad guy, claiming that since “Walter is the show’s protagonist, there is a natural tendency to empathize with and root for him, despite his moral failings . . . As the one character who consistently opposes Walter and calls him on his lies, Skyler is, in a sense, his antagonist.” This is true to an extent, especially early on in the series. For one thing, Walter is a likable guy who starts off with pure motives. Sure, he ultimately becomes a big-time drug lord, but at the beginning his sole concern was for his family. Conversely, Skyler is not likable. Her motives are unclear, but, as evidenced above, she isn’t looking out for anyone but herself. Furthermore, when Marie’s husband is desperately in need of expensive medical care, Skyler is suddenly able to turn a blind eye to the source of the money that Gunn claims so “disgusted” her. Thus, Skyler turns on and off her use of the moral highroad depending upon her needs at the time.
I am somewhat insulted by Anna Gunn’s unsupported assertions. I am an educated lady, and the notion that my dislike for Skyler must stem from an error in my personal belief system is asinine. Mind you, it is not just one person that hates this character, it is literally thousands and thousands of people. By Gunn’s logic, then, all of these people are harboring deep-seated misogynistic ideals. By my logic, the fact that so many people are unnerved by Skyler White suggests that the true problem must like within Skyler White.  Instead, Gunn’s deluded perception leads to her assumption that something must really be wrong with anyone that could possibly dislike Skyler White:
But I finally realized that most people’s hatred of Skyler had little to do with me and a lot to do with their own perception of women and wives. Because Skyler didn’t conform to a comfortable ideal of the archetypical female, she had become a kind of Rorschach test for society, a measure of our attitudes toward gender.
The truth is that Skyler embodies exactly what women do not want to be portrayed as. Skyler is hypocritical and indignant throughout much of the series, and she has no ambition other than to play the victim. She thrives on being the “poor wife” during Walt’s cancer treatments. When Walt goes into remission, Skyler reacts strangely because she may lose her victim status, thus she runs to Ted to milk what attention she can from the situation. She flourishes amidst this self-victimization, and it explains why we hate her so much more after she has learned about Walt’s drug ties. She has to make herself the center of attention, so she repeatedly throws tantrums until she is (ie, fake pool suicide attempt). Does Anna Gunn honestly believe this is what a strong female lead looks like?  If so, perhaps this actress is more like her character than I had thought.
Anna Gunn’s essay can be seen here:
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7 thoughts on “I Hate Skyler White, and I’m Not a Misogynist”

  1. Finally someone I can agree with (more or less). I hate when people use catch all phrases that put a halt to critical thinking or further reflection. Instead of asking why we hate Skyler in “relation to” (her past behaviour, her role in the show, how she effects Walt, her psychology, where she lands on the spectrum of conservatism, etc.), she in her op-ed, and many people simply want to chock it up to Misogyny and end the discussion there. People don’t seem to realize that most of the fun is in having the discussion.

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  2. I don’t hate Skyler for sleeping with Ted, or for spending Walt’s money, or wanting to get her kids out of the house or anything else, many of her actions once she finds out who Walter is are understandable. I hate her because she was a shit person from the beginning.

    I hated Skyler from the first episode when she half assed giving him a b-day handy and didn’t even bother to pay attention. If I was Walt, I would have just walked away. One of the cruelest things you can do to someone is phone in intimacy. Way to show you don’t give a shit Skyler.

    It quickly becomes obvious their entire marriage was about her and what she wanted, the entire first episode she’s controlling every decision he makes, from breakfast to nagging him about what credit card to use. Remember folks, Walt gave up his entire future for her and their newborn kid. The man could have been a rock-star in the chemistry world with a Nobel Prize and millions to his name. Instead his life became one long slog through mediocrity as a Highschool teacher and cashier/towel guy at a car wash while she sits around at home on her ass failing at writing and “art”… and he never once complained about it.

    For me, that was underscored when Walt reveals to her that he has cancer. She immediately makes the whole situation about her, her feelings and what she wants. Sure, Walt started acting weird and distant, but the man is DYING for pete’s sake. She never once asked “are you ok? how are you holding up? what do you want to do?” Nope, it was just nag, nag, guilt trip, nag. It took an “intervention” where Walt finally gets to have a say for her to realize that gee, her husband has thoughts and feelings of his own too. Not that it lasted long. Even after the family sat down and talked, she still made everything about her and her feelings at the group therapy.

    At the end of the day, she’s a control freak who lets Walt work two jobs while she sits on her ass and complains to him about money.

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  3. I totally argee I love women and have no problem with any type of womens rights but 8 absolutely hate skyler she sucks. People just like to chalk it up to being a male women hating pig when then knkw down right shes wrong in almost every choice she makes

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  4. It is ridiculous that people hate Skylar so much more than Walter when he has murdered people and poisoned children and she has done none of those things. Skylar is no angel, but her crimes or money laundering and “cooking the books” are pale compared to Walts.

    It is also untrue that Walter had good intentions. As early as series 1 he had the opportunity to have his medical bills paid for by Elliot and to work for Elliot. He could have provided for his family and gotten chemo, but he put his pride at higher priority than his children’s safety. Gangsters and drug lords sometimes target their enemies families. Skylar and the children could have gotten killed due to Walt’s actions. And people hate her for being mad at him? It’s ridiculous.

    Skylar never put her children’s life at risk. There is nothing in the show to suggest she ever neglected her children or had sex with Ted in front of them. Walter is the terrible parent, not her.

    Of course she’s not going to let Hank die because the money came from drug dealing. Who would do that?

    It makes no sense that so many viewers hate Skylar so much and love Walt, and it does seem to at least partially be down to misogyny.

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  5. I couldn’t agree more about the ‘trying to play the victim part’. She’s doing it from the very fucking start. I’ve never actually met a more annoying character in a while.

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  6. They’re BOTH bad people. Walt, I don’t need to spell it out. We all know. But trying to downplay Skyler has the “victim wife”? Skyler literally suggested (“Rabid Dog”) to Walt that he should just kill Jesse! She’s F&*ked in the head too.
    And Hank is a hypocrite. Makes his own beer (which is legal, and I’m ok with), but it is a drug. Smokes illegal Cuban cigars. Bails out his thief of a wife. Try’s to prevent Skyler from talking to a lawyer. Even tells Walt “I know once upon a time you may have smoked pot, but I so don’t care. Can you help me catch Jesse Pinkman?”

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